David Payne concedes a closure of Rosehill racetrack and its surrounding training facilities will almost certainly bring an end to his distinguished career in racing.

While it won’t be an early retirement by any stretch for the trainer who has made a name for himself in South Africa and Australia, it will nevertheless be the end of an era.

Payne will be 81 should the state government and the Australian Turf Club keep to a timetable to turn Rosehill into housing from 2028 and he says only a return to training at Randwick could change his mind.

He has received no communication from government or racing officials since Rosehill’s demise was announced a fortnight ago but says he would be the least affected among the small number of trainers who have on-course stables at the western Sydney racetrack.

“They might force me into retirement,” Payne said.

“I haven’t got a retirement plan so we’ll just see what happens. But if they wouldn’t give me boxes at Randwick, then I would throw the towel in.

“I doubt I’ll be going to where they want the existing Rosehill trainers to go.”

Rosehill to be sold off in shock move by ATC
Rosehill racecourse, the home of the Golden Slipper and more recently the Golden Eagle, will cease racing within five years after a shock announcement by the New South Wales government that it will acquire it from the Australian Turf Club (ATC) to build a suburb of 25,000 homes.

Payne arrived in Australia more than two decades ago and established stables at Randwick during a time of much uncertainty in South African racing.

He puts part of the blame for the tenuous nature of the South African thoroughbred scene on the loss of racetracks.

“In South Africa when they started selling racecourses the industry went backwards. Before I left they sold off three or four and you never recover,” he said.

“They started cutting their big racecourses in half to try and make more meetings and it doesn’t work.”

Payne said if he was just starting out, he would have concerns about the consequences of closing an iconic racecourse such as Rosehill.

“It doesn’t affect me because I will be retired,” he said.

“But if I was a young man I wouldn’t think it would be a good idea. It will be a shame. There is a lot of history here and that just disappears.”

Until the government and the ATC announce a more detailed plan for Rosehill and the construction of 25,000 new homes, Payne insists he will still be around trying to nurture the next Criterion, Ace High or Montefilia - horses he took to the highest level of racing.

His renowned patience and dedication to get the best out of his latest stable of young horses is a far cry from the method he employed when he burst onto the scene in Sydney after dominating South African racing as a jockey and then a trainer.

Payne found success with Australian two-year-olds out of necessity.

“I got them up and going. You had to because you wanted buyers and you wanted people to recognise you because the Aussie mentality is two-year-olds and I prefer staying horses,” he said.

“I only keep 20 horses in work now but I still love it. I’m like any trainer, I’m still looking for my next big horse. That’s what gets you up in the morning.

“I can do that now, look for stayers. Classic horses like Montefilia, Ace High and Criterion.

“I’ve got some nice ones coming through but they will only get going next year because I like to give them a bit of time.”